Creator: Steve Blackman, Jeremy Slater | Runtime: 47-51mins (episode) | Action, Fantasy, Adventure
The first season of Umbrella Academy was a wonderful dose of comic book absurdity that was fuelled by it’s equally absurd cast of misfit ‘superheroes’. The absurdity continues in the second season, having the group scattered across Dallas in 1963 after a botched time travel, and in order to stop a nuclear war Five (the youngest looking, but oldest character) must scour the city and eventually bring his estranged siblings back together.
Sound familiar? That’s because the second season follows the same story and themes as the first while slightly twinging the time and place. But when the entertainment value is this high it’s really not a problem. The switch of time opens wonderful doors for each character, with Allison becoming a force within the civil rights movement as well as everyone’s small connection to the assassination of JFK. It holds the same momentum that the first season had, and even improves on side characters and humour. The introduction of Ritu Arya as Lila and Kevin Rankin as Elliott help to shape even more depth to the show as well as chemistry among the cast that breeds humour outside of the family squabbles.
But after all the squabbling is what makes this show work so well, the band of misfits device only works if the cast is working in harmony. Just like the first season though each member of the Hargreeves family have wonderful back and forth and moments of sentiment that really turn their relationships into family. There is a particular scene near the end of the season in which Vanya (Ellen Page) shares a heartfelt goodbye with her brother Ben (Justin H. Min), one that really gives you a wholesome reminder of just how well the actors bounce of each and connect.
The season is clearly trying to get the most out of it’s setting and despite some of the plot being somewhat overused, it’s still entertaining as hell.
While the second season does use the ‘family matters’ mantra still, it’s dependency is more on the high-concept aspect that the show bolsters. Things like the assassination of JFK, a multi-generation fight between Five and himself, the introduction of Klaus (Robert Sheehan) as a flower-power cult leader, amnesia and the fear of a Red Dawn-esque invasion of America. The season is clearly trying to get the most out of it’s setting and despite some of the plot being somewhat overused, it’s still entertaining as hell.
Arguably the shows biggest downfall is that it underuses some it’s most interesting characters, especially Klaus, who as the funniest character only gets a half-cocked arc of saving the life of a soldier he will go onto love. But it’s lucky that the show makes up for that by really digging into it’s setting and giving us fantastic secondary characters. Lila’s comedic beginnings quickly spirals into a mid-season twist, and Vanya’s struggle with amnesia leads to one of the strongest stories in the season, in which she begins a relationship with an unhappy housewife. It’s slightly more subtle than what you’d expect, and the performance from Marin Ireland is astonishingly scene stealing.
It may be reusing a lot of things from it’s first season, but Umbrella Academy’s second season has so much to offer that it doesn’t matter, and as played out as a lot of the plot is it’s saved by the casts wonderful chemistry as well as some new arcs that really add depth to it’s secondary characters. The show is never trying to be more than entertaining, and hopefully it will go down as one of the very best ‘binge-watching’ shows of the past few years.